Instructor Guide to DSP Accommodations

The Disabled Students' Program (DSP) Faculty Liaisons are colleagues that can provide information about DSP policies, and how to effectively navigate and advocate for the needs of faculty and students. They partner with DSP to support faculty with disability-related academic concerns and have provided the resources on this page.

On this page:

10-Point Guide

Compiled by Jonah Levy and Justin Davidson, DSP Faculty Liaisons, Steve Johnston, Disability Access and Compliance, and Carolyn Swalina, Disabled Students' Program

This guide is intended to assist instructors around some of the most common issues confronted in handling DSP accommodations. In collaboration with Disabled Students' Program (DSP) and Disability Access & Compliance (DAC), most of the information in this guide is sourced from the DSP website, DSP staff, and a few other sources. More detailed information about providing accommodations is available on the DSP Faculty FAQ page. If you are having difficulty providing an accommodation or you need help in order to provide an accommodation, please reach out to the student’s assigned Disability Specialist directly for assistance. If you require assistance outside of DSP, please reach out to Steve Johnston at DAC. 

1. Legal status of DSP accommodations

● Disability rights are civil rights backed by the law. They are not optional.

● Colleges and universities are required by Section 504 and Title II to provide students with disabilities with appropriate academic adjustments and auxiliary aids that are necessary to afford an individual with a disability an equal opportunity to participate in the school’s program.

● In disability discrimination cases heard by the Office of Civil Rights (OCR), there does not have to be intent in order to find that discrimination has occurred. What matters is the result, not the intent. Even if there is no deliberate intention to discriminate, there can still be a finding of discrimination. In fact, most cases of discrimination result from a misunderstanding or lack of communication, as opposed to deliberate actions.

● Discrimination protections do not mean that instructors have no role in the accommodation process. Accommodation letters may contain provisions such as the need to allow assignment extensions or disability-related absences without specific information about what that means for the student in your class. If you do not understand how to implement these accommodations or believe that some are incompatible with the requirements of your class, you have the right to contact the DSP Disability Specialist listed on the letter of accommodation and seek a clarification or modification of an accommodation. Always speak to the DSP Disability Specialist about your concerns, not the student, and be sure to reach out to the Disability Specialist before taking any action to modify an accommodation. If you do not receive a timely response from a Disability Specialist, you can reach out to the Lead Disability Specialists.

2. The DSP population

● About one-third of the University population identifies as having a disability. Approximately 10% of the student population are served by the Disabled Students’ Program, so it would not be unusual for between 8-15% of your students to need some sort of disability accommodation.

● Students from historically marginalized groups are overrepresented among the DSP population:

○ 30% are historically underrepresented students

○ 12% were foster youth

○ 20% are LGBTQI+

○ 54% are EOP eligible

○ 21% are from families earning less than $40,000 annually

3. DSP Disability Specialists

● About one-third of the University population identifies as having a disability. Approximately 10% of the student population are served by the Disabled Students’ Program, so it would not be unusual for between 8-15% of your students to need some sort of disability accommodation.

● DSP Disability Specialists are your closest allies when it comes to implementing academic accommodations.

● As educators, instructors are responsible under the Americans with Disabilities Act for providing accessible instruction and accommodations to students with disabilities. These responsibilities stem from the law, not from the decisions of DSP Disability Specialists. DSP Disability Specialists collaborate with instructors to meet the campus’s legal obligations toward students with disabilities. As faculty, it is legally required and part of the job description to provide accommodations to students who are entitled to them.

4. Recording lectures

● Students who do not attend lectures are not entitled to receive a recording of those lectures, unless a remote learning accommodation has been verified by DSP.

● Classes can be moved to facilitate course capture recording for students with remote learning accommodations. DSP will assist in finding a classroom with course capture technology.

● If lecture audio recordings are part of a student’s accommodation, technology may be available on loan to the student from DSP to assist with lecture recording.

5. Occasional absences

● All students are expected to attend classes. Absences for students with disabilities are excused only if the disability is the reason for the absence.

● If a student is absent for a disability-related reason, they should contact course staff to let them know that the absence was due to their disability as soon as possible.

● Course staff should understand that in the event of a disability-related absence, it may not always be possible for the student to inform the staff ahead of time.

● If instructors have questions about how to determine the number of absences to which a student with an accommodation is entitled, they should contact the Disability Specialist listed on the student’s letter of accommodation directly for assistance.

6. Extensions on assignments

● There is no presumption that students get extensions on all assignments. Extensions are usually for individual assignments when a student experiences an exacerbation of their disability or their disability prevents them from completing the assignment. In the event of an exacerbation, students should contact course staff to inform them of the need for an extension as soon as possible. Nonetheless, instructors should understand that in the event of an exacerbation, it may not always be possible to make such requests before the original deadline. The DSP website offers the following advice:

Students with an assignment extension accommodation must communicate the need for an extension on each assignment unless otherwise agreed with the instructor. It is the student’s responsibility to contact the instructor and request an extension. Extensions are not automatic and failure to communicate with the instructor can result in loss of points for the assignment unless there is a disability related emergency. Extensions are generally for a short period of time (1-5 days) unless agreed otherwise with the instructor.

If a faculty member disagrees with a requested extension, they should immediately contact the Disability Specialist who sent the letter of accommodation, and they can help resolve your concern. The Disability Specialist can also assist with determining a reasonable length of time for an extension or with reviewing medical documentation and verifying the disability-related need for an extension.

If you have questions or concerns about how this accommodation works, contact the Disability Specialist listed on the student’s letter of accommodation.

7. Specific extended time for timed assignments (including timed exams and quizzes)

  • If a student has an accommodation providing for a specific amount of extended time on timed exams and quizzes, that extra time is typically applicable only when the exam or quiz is to be completed in a set amount of time during a 24-hour period. If over 24 hours is provided for an exam, quiz, or assignment, this accommodation may not be needed (although an extension could be possible under the “Extension of assignment” accommodation above).

  • For example, if an instructor provides 24 hours for students to complete an exam that is scheduled to be open (once started) for 2 hours, the disabled student with a time and a half accommodation would be allowed to take 3 hours within that 24-hour window to complete the exam, but the instructor does not have to provide 36 hours for the student to take the exam.

  • As with all accommodations, if a student does state that they require 36 hours and this raises a concern for the instructor, the instructor should contact the student's assigned Disability Specialist for guidance.

8. Proctoring

● Most, but not all, letters of accommodation provide for additional time on exams. Another common exam accommodation is testing in a reduced-distraction environment. In general, instructors are responsible for providing accommodations for students who receive 150% extended time and/or a reduced distraction environment. DSP reserves its proctoring services for more complex accommodations, such as 200% (or more) time, a room alone, a scribe, or use of a computer.

● Providing proctoring services to a number of students, each with different disabilities and accommodation requirements, can be challenging. You may wish to consider if there are other ways of assessing student learning besides in-person exams, e.g. projects, papers, in-class presentations. Such alternative modes of assessment can potentially reduce the need for accommodations and, in some cases, allow you to evaluate student learning at a deeper level than in-person exams.

● Some instructors are turning to remote exams as an alternative way to meet accommodation requirements. Instead of seeking distraction-free classrooms on campus, instructors can allow students to take the exams at home, in the library, or anywhere else that is convenient. Remote exams can also help with the provision of extra time. Instead of locating additional classrooms for students receiving 150% time, instructors can provide the extra time to students wherever they take the exam. Of course, remote exams can raise concerns about academic integrity. For ideas about how to prevent cheating along with information about remote exams more generally, see the Academic Senate website here.

● If you are having any issues or concerns with regards to proctoring for students with DSP accommodations, you can reach out to the DSP Proctoring Office (, the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL), or the DSP Faculty Liaisons, Jonah Levy ( and Justin Davidson (

9. Use of technology

● Some students have specific DSP accommodations to either type their own notes or receive typewritten notes from a student notetaker in their class. If this is the case, the student or notetaker should be allowed to use their laptop in the classroom as long as they have identified themselves to you. You can also reach out to DSP to confirm the accommodation if you have questions about technology use that are not addressed in a student’s letter of accommodation.

● Realtime Captioning provides a live translation of speech into written text that is displayed on a laptop, tablet, or cell phone.

● If a student has a DSP accommodation for the use of a laptop, tablet, or cell phone for disability-related reasons, please allow the student to use their device and to sit where they choose in the classroom.

● If you have a policy limiting the use of technology in your class, please state in your syllabus that students who need to use an electronic device should contact the instructor to request an exception to this policy. You might want to broaden the exemption to include students who strongly believe that they need access to their electronic device in order to learn effectively. That way, you avoid specifically singling out students with disabilities.

10. Inclusive/Universal design

● Consider designing an inclusive course - that is, taking into account accessibility from the start of course creation - as opposed to first designing a course and only subsequently looking back to try and make it accessible. (Assistance is available - see below).

● Inclusive design benefits all students, not just students with disabilities. For example, some students with anxiety find multiple low-stakes assignments and quizzes easier to navigate and prepare for than one big high-stakes exam. This kind of course design has also been shown to improve learning outcomes for all students. Reluctance to cooperate with other students and incentives to cheat are both reduced by having a number of low-stakes assignments, rather than a single high-stakes assignment. Thus, structuring course assessments with students with anxiety in mind could benefit all students in the class, not solely students with disabilities.

● The more accessible your class is for students with disabilities, the fewer accommodations students will require to participate in your class. As an additional benefit, when your class is more accessible for students with disabilities, it will be more accessible for students without disabilities too! The paradigm of Universal Design recognizes that disability is just one facet of an individual’s identity and that disability is neither negative nor an inherent barrier to access. Universal Design asks us to consider for whom an environment, task, item, or program has been designed, and to whom the current or proposed design creates a barrier to access. We are then asked to consider the modifications to the environment, task, item, or program that could be implemented to remove the identified barriers so that all who would like to participate can do so.

Resources for Universal Design:

1. Shaw, Scott, and McGuire’s 2001 article, “Principles of Universal Design for Instruction” is a good introduction to the nine principles of Universal Design and how they can be applied to increase the accessibility of your classes and assignments.

2. Acting Associate Director for Accommodation Services and Lead Disability Specialist and Supervisor, Carolyn Swalina, is available to consult with faculty who would like to discuss increasing the accessibility of their courses and assignments. Faculty can contact Carolyn to request an individual consultation at

3. Additional information on teaching and inclusive design can be found here: Teaching and Inclusive Design


Addressing DSP Accommodations in Your Syllabus

Many instructors struggle to articulate a comprehensive disability accommodation statement on their syllabi. Of course, every class is different, so there is no one-size-fits-all statement. Still, this page offers a few suggestions of language for presenting your accommodation policy accurately and setting appropriate expectations and procedures for your students.

Compiled by Jonah Levy and Justin Davidson, DSP Faculty Liaisons, Steve Johnston, Disability Access and Compliance, and Carolyn Swalina, Disabled Students' Program.

1. Avoid using language on your syllabus like “never” or “under no circumstances” in reference to assignments or exams

Disability rights are civil rights backed by the law; they are not optional. Be mindful that your syllabus cannot take away the legal rights of students with disabilities. If you write, for example, that no homework will be accepted after the due date or that no make-up exams will ever be given, you may be legally required to walk back those policies in the event that a disability prevents a student from submitting an assignment on time or taking an exam as scheduled. If you wish to draw a line in the sand, your policy should allow for exceptions in cases of disability accommodations. For example, instead of writing that “no homework will be accepted after the due date,” you could write that “no homework will be accepted after the due date except as provided by disability accommodations.” If, in practice, you make allowances for personal, family, or medical emergencies, as many instructors do, you may want to incorporate language recognizing this policy, such as, “no homework will be accepted after the due date except in cases of personal, family, or medical emergencies or as provided by disability accommodations.”

2. Suggested general language on DSP accommodations based on a slightly modified version of DSP’s recommendation

"UC Berkeley is committed to creating a learning environment that meets the needs of its diverse student body including students with disabilities. If you anticipate or experience any barriers to learning in this course, please feel welcome to discuss your concerns with me. If you have a disability, or think you may have a disability, you can work with the Disabled Students' Program (DSP) to determine any accommodations you may need to have equal access in this course. The Disabled Students' Program (DSP) is the campus office responsible for authorizing disability-related academic accommodations, in cooperation with the students themselves and their instructors. You can find more information about the DSP application process(link is external). I am available if you have any questions or concerns about your accommodations, but in the event of a disagreement, the proper procedure is for you to work with your DSP Specialist and your DSP Specialist to work with me toward a resolution.”

3. Suggested language on the timely submission of DSP letters of accommodation

“Please submit your DSP letters of accommodation as soon as possible. If you are uncertain as to whether you will use the accommodation, it is much better to have the accommodation in place than to scramble at the last minute should you need it. Accommodations are not retroactive, so your GSIs and I are not responsible for providing accommodations prior to the receipt of an accommodation letter (although if you have extenuating circumstances, we may be able to make temporary adjustments). The more lead time that you provide your GSIs and me, the easier it is for us to arrange your accommodations. Be mindful that it might not be possible to accommodate last-minute requests, depending on your accommodation needs.”

4. Suggested language on absence accommodations when class attendance is tracked and is part of the final course grade

“If you have a disability-related absence accommodation, you are still required to attend class and participate in order to receive full credit. An absence accommodation does not authorize unlimited absences, but rather only a reasonable number of absences made necessary by the impact of a disability. In the event of such an absence, be sure to inform your GSI and me that your absence is disability-related as soon as you are able, so that you are not penalized. We will follow up with you and your assigned Disability Specialist if we have concerns about the impact of your absences on your ability to fulfill the course requirements.”

5. Suggested language on extra time

“Almost all accommodation letters provide for extra time on quizzes and exams. This extra time accommodation applies primarily to assessments or exams that take less than 24 hours to complete. For example, if I give you a 48-hour window to complete a an exam that is open in bCourses for 2 hours, a student with a DSP accommodation of 150% time would be allowed to take 3 hours within that 48-hour window to complete the exam; the 48-hour window itself would not generally be extended.”
Note: You may wish to indicate on your syllabus which assessments and exams allow for extra time and which do not.

6. Suggested language on extensions and make-up exams

“If your DSP letter of accommodation allows for extensions on assignments or make-up exams, be mindful that implementing such accommodations is authorized when the impact of your disability prevents you from completing the assignment or taking the exam as scheduled. There is no presumption that you can have extensions outside these circumstances. In the event that the impact of your disability prevents you from completing an assignment or taking an exam as scheduled, it is your responsibility to contact your GSI and me to request an extension. Extensions are not automatic and failure to communicate with your GSI and me can result in a loss of points on the assignment or exam. Extensions should be requested prior to the exam or the deadline for an assignment unless there is a documented disability-related reason that the request could not be made beforehand. You may be asked to provide medical documentation to your DSP Specialist (e.g., a note from urgent care) confirming a disability-related reason why you were unable to complete an assignment or take an exam on the originally scheduled date. Under no circumstances should you ever share the medical documentation related to your disability with your GSI or me. Extensions are generally for a short period of time (1-5 days) unless your GSI or I specifically authorize a longer extension.”

7. If you limit the use of technology in class, provide a general exception, rather than one that is limited to students with DSP accommodations, so as not to “out” these students to the rest of the class. Suggested language on technology bans

“For reasons A and B, I believe that the classroom should be a technology-free zone with no laptops, tablets, or cell phones. If you have a compelling reason for needing one of these devices in class, please send a written explanation and request to me. If you have a letter of accommodation allowing you to use technological devices for disability-related reasons, you need not submit a request.”

Note: Do not compel students using technological devices to sit in a particular area of the room, e.g., at the front or back. Such a rule could be regarded as stigmatizing and as preventing students with disabilities from participating in the class on equal terms.

8. Suggested language on resolving disagreements about provisions of accommodation letters

“Most DSP accommodations are relatively straightforward, such as 150% time on exams. Others, however, are more ambiguous, such as ‘occasional disability-related absences.’ In the event that your GSI or I disagree with you about an accommodation, we will contact your DSP Specialist to work out a solution, and we encourage you to do the same. By working with your DSP Specialist rather than with you directly, we protect you from feeling pressured to accept a less than fair accommodation out of fear of biasing the person who will grade your work. In addition, DSP Specialists know disability law and have considerable experience helping implement accommodations, so they are best placed to work out a fair and legal accommodation with your GSI and me.”

DSP Faculty Liaisons

Justin Davidson

Dr. Justin Davidson teaches in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese where his main research agenda is guided by questions that address language variation and language change, while incorporating a variety of linguistic frameworks and methodologies.

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Jonah Levy

Dr. Jonah Levy teaches courses in the areas of comparative political economy, French and West European politics, and social policy. Dr. Levy is Vice-Chair of the Department of Political Science, Director of Undergraduate Studies, and has previously received a Phi Beta Kappa award for excellence in teaching.

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Interview with Justin Davidson & Jonah Levy

Additional Resources